Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Turkey, The Kurds, And Iran

Over at WPR, I spoke with a well-informed European official about the IAEA's Iran report. On a hunch, I asked him what kind of strategic impact Turkey -- which has really stayed on the sidelines of this issue -- could make by actively siding with the West's position. Without hesitation he said it would make a huge difference. In addition to the obvious reasons (Islamic country, regional power, etc.), he explained that Turkey is one of the countries in the region he would be most worried about seeking a nuclear weapons capacity should Iran aquire a nuclear bomb. Although he did not explicitly connect the dots, I interpreted that to mean that by coming down firmly on the side of containing the Iranian program, Turkey would send a strong signal to the rest of the region of their own intentions. That in turn would shore up Western efforts to enlist other regional players to contain, rather than compete with, the Iranian program.

That's important to keep in mind for putting Turkey's Iraq incursion into context. American military commanders emphasized the difference yesterday between the U.S. receiving advance notice of the incursion and the U.S. approving the incursion. But that's a distinction very few people will find convincing, least of all the Kurds, who reminded the U.S. (in the form of a resolution by the Kurdish Regional Parliament) of its obligation to defend the territorial integrity of Iraq. (The resolution also notably called for the closure of Turkish Forward Operating Bases in Iraqi Kurdistan that date back to the 1990's.)

My source categorically refused to speculate on a potential quid pro quo. But should Turkey adopt a more vocal position in opposition to Iran's nuclear program, it would to my mind suggest a priority shift in American strategic calculations in the region, and reflect the extent to which Washington considers the Iranian program a very serious threat.

Cross-posted to World Politics Review.

Posted by Judah in:  Iran   Iraq   Turkey   

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